Who Would Like this Series/Volume?
As far as volume 1 goes, this series is a straightforward fantasy adventure. It’s not a dead serious, mature kind of adventure, but isn’t heavy on the comedy, either. No social drama, no stumble-into-boobies ecchi fest, no ridiculous comedy setup. If you like –
or at least don’t dislike – “standard” fantasy adventures, then this is for you.
The novel gets more difficult when it shifts to explanations/discriptions of the fantasy world and/or its background(s). Alas, a fantasy world comes into existence in the mind of the author and you gotta understand his or her world in order to be able to fully enjoy it. That being said, I see it on the rather difficult side of light novels, but only in terms you probably not having learnt the vocabulary yet, resulting in quite the amount of dictionary work. Take that away and it’d be a atrong 4/10, but with it, it’s a weak…
There’s at least one anime season, a manga, an official light novel translation; there’s everything, so you can enjoy it yourself. I don’t know about the quality of the translation and I’m not planning on trying it as of now. Why? Find out later. 😛
NOTE: This volumes/series has an anime and/or complete translation somewhere. Hence, the contents section will be reduced to the bare minimum as you can get the experience more or less by yourself.
Don’t you just love having unpopular oppinions? The whole world loves something, you give it a try, think it’s crap, wonder what’s wrong with you, then just agree with everyone to fit in and die a little inside. Nah, I’m just kidding, that’s not gonna happen here. However, Re:Zero is one of the newer big phenomenons in the light novel world, right up there with KonoSuba. And what do both of those have in common for me? I’ve seen neither of those anime! What a shame, right? I’m gonna catch up on that soon, though. But let’s talk Re:Zero for now and let me try to ‘justify’ why I think it’s a bad read.
The main protagonist, Subaru, wakes up in a fantasy world, unknown to him. Soon enough, he finds out that it’s not all love, peace, and harmony as in fairy tales and gets beaten up and mugged by thugs. Before they can kill him, he gets saved by a girl – later to be known as ‘Emilia’ – who is in pursuit of a thief who’s robbed something precious to her. To repay her kindness, Subaru half forces his help on her, which leads to circumstances that get Subaru killed. However, he suddenly finds himself in the same spot in the fantasy world where he had originally awoken, apparently caught in a ‘time loop.’
Sounds interesting? Yes! Then where do things go wrong?
The characters? We’ve got a whole array of those. The three thugs who appear refreshingly merciless, yet kind of goofy. We got a typical tsundere with our main heroine, which doesn’t hurt unless you’ve got a stone where your heart should be and hate tsunderes. Then there’s the thief, a small girl, who has her reasons for doing her thievery. The big, oger-like dealer in stolen goods, the ruthless assassin, the seemingly righteous ‘star’ guard, the merchant, his wife, and their daughter. There are a lot of characters used on this stage, a surprising lot, considering the setting and that it’s merely the first volume. It’s hard to juggle a big number of characters in a time loop setting, since everyone needs their ‘daily’ routine and consequences depending on what happens in the current timeline. In short, the characters are a plus in terms of variety and number.
Is it their depth? No. Of course, the main heroine gets the most screen time and depth in the course of the first volume. She even lies to Subaru at first, being suspicious of him. It’s a nice detail and makes her more believable. In general, there’s a lot of information about the characters. There’s, at times, too much information. For instance the arc where Emilia and Subaru look for the merchant’s missing daugther. It’s seemingly pointless and just drags on; when I was aching to read some more timeline manipulation and its consequences, they were babysitting a minor character – boring. At least make it about a main character, so that Subaru can use this information in the next timeline. The character depth is well done with some, and poorly done with other characters; however, the characters are never too shallow.
How are the dialogues? That’s the worst part, in my opinion. The dialogue with Emilia and her familiar work out kinda well, but the dialogue with all other character is just horrible. It’s like a fourth grader wrote that, right from the start you can clearly tell what the author wants their relationship to be. There’s no development, they get along from the start or don’t. And the dialogue drags on waaay too long. The worst example of both of these points is Subaru’s first and later conversations with Rom (hopefully I got the name right). That guy is virtually a bear and the owner of a warehouse full of stolen goods, he’s a freakin’ thug. Yet, he lets Subaru in way too easily and even though Subaru is just a brat and pretty cheeky to Rom, they get along wonderfully right away. Rom’s neither overly suspicious, nor cautious – even though he’s sitting on a warehouse full of stolen goods. From the beginning, they get along great, but they don’t arrive at this kind of relationship naturally, the author froce-writes them into that relationship and it shows – it’s hard to explain. And they talk on forever, it drags over pages and pages and you don’t get any interesting information out of it, it’s just one long ‘I gotta show that these guys get along great.’ Really tiring. At this point of the book, you don’t even know about the ‘timetravel’ stuff yet, so it’s just boring blah-blah without a twist so far. And true enough, I started reading this light novel with a Japanese friend of mine, and she dropped it before Subaru’s first respawn since nothing was happening and it’s just boring.
In terms of the story, there’s a lot of potential wasted in the filler arcs. Personally, I wanted to see Subaru fool around with the world more to figure out stuff for his next ‘try.’ He doesn’t do extreme things to get information that he could use to get even more information next time and then play the timeline out in his favor. For instance, he could’ve used his information about Emilia to persuade her that he’s kinda timetravelling and get more information out of her. He could’ve also warned her that her amulet’s about to get stolen before it actually gets stolen. I mean, it might end the whole arc too rapidly, but it’s not like those things have to work out flawlessly, her amulet could still get stolen in another way, but if he doesn’t even try the obvious solutions, it makes him look like an idiot, in my opinion. Basically, I expected him to abuse his “power” more.
And worse yet, when he first respawns the vast majority of readers should’ve realized right away: “Oh, so he doesn’t die and just goes back to where he started.” Yeah, but he doesn’t. You watch him another full round figuring out that he’s living the movie “Groundhog Day” while you shout at him “TAKE A HINT, MAN” in your heart.
Let’s sum it up: The characters and story of Re:Zero are very interesting and promising, it’s a series well-designed on the drafting-board – but when it was time for the concept to be written out into a full book, his writing ability failed the author. Basically, I’m fine with everything in this light novel, but the writing itself – which is a first for me. Was Re:Zero a webnovel originally? That would really explain a lot for me. At the same time, I’m having high hopes for the anime which I’m going to watch after my review. After all, anime adaptions tend to cut their light novel origin into rushed shadows of themselves. In this case, however, it might actually turn it into something brilliant.
All in all: Great idea which is, in my opinion, poorly written for a considerable portion and feels like it’s one third fillers with zero progress – yet I can’t wait to see the anime, thanks to the idea behind this story.